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Chapter Two: What Is Vairagya?

An Internal Mental State

Raja Janaka, though he ruled a kingdom, was a perfectly dispassionate man. So was Raja Bhagiratha, too. Queen Chudala possessed perfect vairagya, though she ruled a dominion, while her saintly husband, Raja Sikhidhvaja, who retired into the forest to practice tapasya and yoga, was intensely attached to his body and kamandalu (waterpot).

You cannot form a correct opinion of any sadhu or sannyasin or even householder as to his mental state of vairagya or mental condition by just having a casual talk with him for a few hours or staying with him for a few days. You will have to live with him for a very long time to study his internal mental state.

Generally most people commit serious blunders in these matters. They are deluded by mere external appearances. They mistake a physically nude sadhu for a great mahatma in the beginning. Later on they feel obliged to change their impression after closer contact. Physical nudity alone will not constitute real vairagya. The mind of the physically nude sadhu may be full of fantastic desires, cravings and appetites. Who knows! What is wanted, therefore, is mental nudity, i. e., complete eradication of vasanas, egoism, etc. Do not be deceived by external appearances. Beware! Beware!! Beware!!!

Defects of Sensual Pleasures

If you do not possess viveka, if you do not try your extreme level best for the attainment of salvation, if you spend your whole lifetime in eating, drinking, sleeping, marrying and propagating the race, you are no better than a horizontal being. You will have to sit at the feet of animals and learn several lessons from them. Even animals possess self-restraint to an astonishing degree. O man, where has your self-restraint gone?

Sensual enjoyment is attended with various defects. It is attended with various sorts of sins, pains, weaknesses, attachments, slave-mentality, weak will, severe exertion and struggle, bad habits, cravings, aggravation of desires and mental restlessness. Therefore shun all sorts of sensual enjoyments and rest in peace.

The Narayana Upanishad says: “In the beginning these two roads were laid–the road, through karma and sannyasa. The latter consists of the renunciation of the threefold desire (son, wealth, and fame). Of these the road through sannyasa is preferable.” The Taittiriya Upanishad also says: “Renunciation (tyaga) certainly is to be preferred.”

Mere outward giving up of things is nothing. It is not real renunciation. Real tyaga or sannyasa is absolute renunciation of all vasanas and destruction of the heart knot (ignorance), the Chit-jada-Granthi.

The Glory of Vairagya

What should be renounced is that Bhedabuddhi which says: “I am superior to that man. I have done that. I have done this. I am the body” and the Kartritwa abhimana which thinks: “I am the doer.” There is no use of renouncing your home, wife and children, if you cannot renounce these also.

He cannot be truly regarded as having renounced the world altogether who has merely withdrawn himself from worldly possessions. But he, who living in actual contact with the world, finds out its faults (doshas), who is free from every passion and whose soul depends on nothing, may well be said to have truly renounced the world. Read the story of Raja Sikhidhvaja in the Yoga-Vashishtha. You will clearly understand this point.

Renounce this world. Renounce the desire for moksha. Renounce renunciation itself. Then you will become That. You will become Itself.

Dear brother! If you have no real sustained vairagya, you will find no improvement or progress in spirituality. Vows, austerities, energy and meditation will leak out like water from a cracked pot. Be careful.

There is verily no sword more powerful than vairagya to cut off all sorts of attachment to this world. Hold this sword in your hand and march along in the spiritual path. You will safely reach the goal.

The shadow of clouds, the friendship with a fool, the beauty of youth, wealth, all these last only for a very short time. They are impermanent. Shun them all ruthlessly.

Only a thirsty man drinks water. Only a hungry man eats food. Even so, a man who is spiritually hungry and thirsty will only drink the nectar of immortality.

The life of Vemanna is worthy to be read. He was a jnani of Andhra Desa. He was leading a voluptuous life, most abominable indeed. The moment vairagya dawned in him, he became an entirely different man. He made no sadhana as he was a yogabhrashta, or one who had fallen from yogic practices in his previous birth, and became a jnani. He was, and is, very much revered by devotees.

This search after God and God-Realization is a question of supply and demand. If you really want God, if there is a real demand from your heart for God, then the supply will come.

He is really a Sannyasin who is free from passion, egoism and who possesses sattvic qualities.

Atma-vichara (enquiry into the nature of the Atman, or Self) and yogic practices done without intense Vairagya become fruitless.

To get vairagya one should seriously ponder over the various entanglements and bondage of married life.

If you get vairagya, rest assured that is a sign of purification of mind (chitta-shuddhi).

The things that used to afford you delight before give you displeasure now. That is a sign of vairagya.

Vairagya that comes momentarily after such accidents as the loss of some dearly loved relative or wealth is known as Karanavairagya. It will not help you much in your spiritual advancement. The mind will be simply waiting for an opportunity to catch hold of sensual objects when an opportunity arises.

Therefore, vairagya born of discrimination or viveka is the premonitory symptom of spiritual development. That will help the aspirant. That will give him a good spiritual uplift.

Varieties of Vairagya

Vairagya is of two kinds: karanavairagya (on account of some miseries) and viveka-purvaka-vairagya (on account of discrimination between the real and the unreal).

The mind of a man who has got the former type of vairagya is simply waiting for a chance to get back the things that have been given up or lost. As soon as the first opportunity occurs, the man gets a downfall and goes back to his former state. Vishaya (sensual object) does havoc in him with a vengeance and redoubled force from reaction. But the other man who has given up objects on account of deep enquiry and viveka, on account of the illusory nature of objects, will have spiritual advancement. He will not have any downfall.

“That particular state of mind which manifests itself in one who does not hanker after objects seen or heard and in which one is conscious of having controlled or mastered those objects is non-attachment” (Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras: 1:15).

It is only when the mind is absolutely free from attachment of all sorts that true knowledge begins to dawn and samadhi supervenes. Occult powers, attainment of heaven, states of Videha [out of the body] and Prakritilaya [merged in subtle material manifestations and forces], etc., are all temptations. One should be perfectly free from all sorts of temptations. Samadhi comes by itself when the yogic student is fully established in perfect vairagya. Paravairagya is the means to Asampra-jnata Samadhi.

Stages in Vairagya

There are four stages in Vairagya:

(1) Yatamana: This is an attempt not to allow the mind to run into sensual grooves;

(2) Vyatireka: In this stage some objects are attracting you and you are endeavoring to cut off the attachment and attraction. Slowly vairagya develops for these objects also. Then the vairagya matures. When some objects tempt and delude you, you should ruthlessly avoid them. You will have to develop vairagya for these tempting objects and it must also mature. In this stage you are conscious of your degree of vairagya towards different objects;

(3) Ekendriya: The senses stand still and subdued, but the mind has either raga [attraction] or dwesha [aversion] for objects. Mind is, in other words, the only sense that functions independently;

(4) Vasirara: In this highest stage of vairagya, the objects no longer tempt you. They cause no attraction. The senses are perfectly quiet. The mind also is free from likes and dislikes (raga and dwesha). Then you get supremacy or independence. Now you are conscious of your supremacy. Without vairagya no spiritual progress is possible.

Vairagya is of three levels: dull (manda), intense (tivra) and very intense (tivratara). Dull Vairagya cannot help you much in the attainment of your goal.

Vairagya is the opposite of raga, or desire. It is dispassion or non-attachment. It is indifference to sensual objects herein and hereafter. Vairagya thins out the fatty sensual mind. It turns the mind inward (antarmukha vritti). This is the most important qualification for an aspirant. It is the one and the only means to enter into nirvikalpa samadhi.

Vairagya that is born of discrimination is lasting and steady. If you seriously think of the various kinds of pain in this samsara such as birth, death, worries, depression, suffering, disease, loss, hostility, disappointment, fear, etc., if you understand intelligently the defects of sensual life (dosha drishti), and the transitory and perishable nature of all objects of the world, vairagya will immediately dawn.

How to Develop Vairagya

Study of Vairagya-Shatakam of Bhartrihari, and the company of dispassionate sadhus and sannyasins will also help one in developing vairagya. The temporary vairagya which one gets when he is attending the funeral of a dead person and the vairagya which a pregnant lady in pangs gets cannot help one to attain spiritual exaltation. The mind will pounce upon sensual objects when it gets opportunities.

Aspirants generally complain to me: “Swamiji Maharaj, we are meditating for the last twelve years. But we do not know the reason why we have not made any substantial spiritual progress.” This is due to lack of intense vairagya only. The mind will be ever thinking of objects even during meditation. Intense vairagya only can help the aspirant in attaining Self-realization.

“Para-vairagya or supreme non-attachment is that state wherein even the attachment to the qualities [sattwa, rajas and tamas] drops, owing to the knowledge of the Purusha” (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras: 1:16).

The vairagya described earlier is apara-vairagya (the lower vairagya). Now comes supreme vairagya. In the former state, there is preponderance of sattwa. Sattwa is mixed with rajas and tamas. The yogi gets siddhis and becomes a videha or prakritilaya. But the yogi with para-vairagya rejects the siddhis also and gets sakshatkara, or darshan, of the purusha.

In ordinary vairagya there is a trace of vasanas and desires. But in para-vairagya all vasanas, samskaras and desires are fried in toto. In para-vairagya there will be no desire at all. Perfect desirelessness is para-vairagya. In the Bhagavad Gita you will find: “Objects fall away from the abstinent man, leaving the longing behind. But his longing also ceases, who sees the Supreme” (11:59).

Note how Vairagya arises in the mind. The transitory, evanescent and perishable nature of all things creates a sort of disgust in all minds and in proportion to the depth and subtlety of nature, this reaction from the world works more or less powerfully in the mind of every individual. An irresistible feeling arises in our mind that the finite can never satisfy the infinite within us, that the changing and perishable cannot satisfy the changeless and deathless nature that is ours.

When you are not impressed with rich living, rich style of living cannot attract you. When you are impressed with the idea that meat and wine are not at all pleasurable, meat and wine cannot tempt you. When you are impressed that the human body is nothing but a leather-bag of pus, blood, urine, bones and flesh, sexual attraction cannot tempt you. In that case, if you fail to get meat or wine or sex, or to have a rich living, you will not be agonized at all in your mind.

Why are you attracted towards a young, beautiful member of the opposite sex? Have you ever seriously thought over this life-and-death problem? The answer is: because owing to your ignorance you vainly think you will get pleasure from their contact. If you have vairagya and viveka, it will at once tell you that you will ultimately get immense pain from their contact rather than pleasure. Then your mind will recede or withdraw from that object.

It is only when the mind, being divested of all its desires, is indifferent to pleasure and pain and is not attracted by any object that it will be rendered pure, free from the grip of the great delusion like a bird freed from the cage and roaming about freely in the sky.

As soon as vairagya arises in the mind, it opens the gate of divine wisdom. No true and lasting satisfaction comes from the enjoyment of worldly pleasures. Yet, people rush headlong towards objects, even when they know full well that the objects they are trying to seize are unreal and that the world in which they live is fraught with miseries of all sorts. This is Maya. When the mind rests in the Atma then only will nitya-tripti, eternal satisfaction, come–because the Atman is paripurna (all-full). All desires are gratified by realization of the Atma or Self.

Sometimes the mind gets disgusted with one kind of sadhana. It wants some other kind of sadhana. It rebels against monotony. The aspirant should know how to coax the mind on such occasions and to extract work from it by a little relaxation of mind. The cessation of sadhana is a grave blunder. Spiritual practices should never be given up under any circumstances. Evil thoughts will be waiting to enter the gates of the mental factory. If the student of yoga stops his sadhana, his mind will become the devil’s workshop. Do not expect anything. Be sincere and regular in your daily meditation, routine and tapas. Do not deviate from the path you have chosen. The fruit will come by itself. Your efforts will be surely crowned with roaring success. It takes a long time to purify the mind and get one-pointedness. Be cool and patient, my child.

Cut the Knot of Attachment

Attachment is the first child of Maya. The whole lila of the Lord is being kept up by the force of attachment only. A sober man just tastes a small peg of champagne, then he is caught up in evil company and becomes ultimately an inveterate drunkard through attachment to spirits. A teetotaler just takes a whiff of a Gold-Flake cigarette and becomes in due time a terrible smoker through attachment. There is in the mind a gummy substance which is like a mixture of castor-oil, glue, gum-arabic, mucilage of tragacanth, gluten paste, honey, glycerin, jack-fruit’s juice and all other pasty substances of this world. The mind is glued, as it were, to the objects of the world with this mixture. Therefore attachment is very strong.

Therefore O man/woman, never say “My body, my son, my wife/husband, my house, my property, my garden, etc.” Attachment is the root cause of the innumerable miseries and troubles of this world. Discipline your mind little by little. The old evil habits will creep in. Destroy them to the very root. Lead a life of perfect non-attachment. This is the master key to open the realms of brahmic bliss.

But work incessantly without attachment, without any identification. Then alone you can feel that you are a different being. Karma Yoga elevates a man to sublime, magnanimous heights, when done in the right spirit, with the right mental attitude or bhava. One should patiently work. That is all. No meditation or samadhi is ever possible without a preliminary training in Nishkamya [Desireless] Karma-Yoga. To work without attachment is doubtless a difficult task. It is an uphill work. But it becomes a very easy job and pleasant too to a man of patience and determination. You will have to do it at any cost, if you want final beatitude and immortality. Everyone of you will have to do it, though not now, at least after taking five hundred births. There is no other alternative but to do so. But the question is: Why not now? Why not in this very birth itself? Why not cut short the cycle of births and deaths and enjoy the bliss of the Self right now, this very second? Therein lies real wisdom.

Work cannot bring misery, but it is attachment and identification with work that brings in all sorts of unhappiness and bondage. Understand the secret of work, the technique of Karma Yoga and attain God-consciousness. This Jnanagni or fire of wisdom will consume all fruits of actions in toto.

Nivritti-Marga, or the Path of Renunciation

Have a strong determination and a strong will. Never think of returning home after taking up to the Nivritti-Marga. Look before you leap. Have courage, fixity of mind and a definite purpose in life. Be not wavering. Are you ready to give up all possessions, including body and life? Then only take to Nivritti-Marga and embrace sannyasa. Think twice before you come to definite conclusions. This is not a rosy path as you may imagine. It is full of thorns. It is beset with countless difficulties and hardships. Be humble, patient and persevering. Never care for siddhis or quick awakening of the kundalini. Be not troubled. Be not anxious. Be noble-minded. Mere emotional bubbling will not help you much. Some young men have returned to their homes. Difficulties are many in this path. But it can make you a king of kings, an emperor of emperors.

Those who want to take to seclusion and Nivritti-Marga should observe mauna, non-mixing and disciplining the indriyas, mind and body while living in the world. They should train themselves to a laborious hard life, coarse food, sleeping on the ground or a hard mattress without pillows, walking barefooted without umbrellas. Then alone they can bear the rigorous austerities of an ascetic’s life. They should give up timidity and shyness in getting alms.

Aspirants who take to the Nivritti-Marga generally become lazy after some time, as they do not know how to utilize their mental energy, as they do not keep any daily routine, as they do not follow the instructions of their seniors. They get vairagya in the beginning, but they have no experience in the spiritual line. They do not make any progress in the end. Intense and constant meditation is necessary for entering into samadhi.

Have you fully determined with an iron will to stick to this line at any cost? Are you really prepared to sacrifice this body and life in the cause of truth? Have you understood the glory of sannyasa and the importance of seclusion? If your daughter, son, brother, sister, father or mother comes and weeps, have you got the requisite strength to resist moha?

Sleepless vigilance is necessary, if you wish to have rapid spiritual advancement. Never rest content with a little achievement or success in the path, a little serenity of mind, a little one-pointedness of mind, some visions of angels, or siddhis, a little faculty of thought-reading, etc. There are still higher summits to ascend, higher regions to climb up.

The attraction for objects and ties of various sorts make a man bound to this world. Renunciation of all attractions and breaking up of all ties constitute real renunciation. That sannyasin or yogi who is free from attraction and ties enjoys infinite bliss and supreme joy and peace. Fluctuation and imagination are the two seeds of the mind. Fluctuation is the fuel. Imagination is the fire. The unceasing fire of imagination is kept up by the fuel of fluctuation. If the fuel of fluctuation is with drawn, the fire of imagination gets extinguished by itself. The mind becomes tranquil. It is withdrawn into its source, the Atma.

You came into this world alone. You came naked. You came weeping. You will go from this world alone. You will go naked. You will go weeping. Why then are you proud of your titles, false wealth and false knowledge? Become humble and meek. You will conquer the whole world through humility. Become pure in thought, word and deed. This is the secret of spiritual life. The Upanishads and the Gita harp again and again upon this one note.

To a passionate man and woman there is much pleasure in this world. They run after money and sex. Their minds are intoxicated, perverted and clouded. Poor people, they do not know what they are really doing. But to a yogi or a man of discrimination this world is a ball of fire. It is a huge furnace in which all beings are roasted. The three kinds of heat: Adhyatmika (internal), Adhidaivika (heavenly) and Adhibhautika (external) are burning him.

Friend! Is there any limit to the number of fathers and mothers and wives and husbands you had in the crores [ten millions] and crores of previous incarnations? Yet this clinging and false relationship have not gone. Discrimination has not dawned.

Are you not ashamed to repeat the same old process of eating, drinking and sleeping day in and day out? You are proud of your titles and knowledge. Have you improved your life even a bit? What have you learnt from the recent Bihar and Quito earthquakes? Are you attempting to reach that imperishable seat, wherein all desires and trishnas [thirstings] are completely eradicated? Are you endeavoring, in however small a measure it may be, to attain the highest goal of life, Atmic realization, which gives immortality, bliss and peace? You are not crawling now. You have learnt to stand up and walk. You can think, reason out, judge, infer and ratiocinate. Will you not utilize this precious life and all your various faculties in meditation and Self-realization? Can you give me a definite word of promise to the effect? Speak to me the truth now. Climb up the ladder of yoga. Drink the nectar of immortality.

Vairagya born of Viveka is enduring and everlasting. It will not fail the aspirant at any time unlike the vairagya that comes temporarily to a lady who gives birth to a child or to a man attending a funeral in the crematorium. The view that everything in the world is unreal causes vairagya or indifference to the enjoyments of this world and the other heaven worlds also. One has to come down to this mrityu-loka [world of death] from heaven when the fruits of good works are exhausted.

The same five kinds of enjoyment of sensual pleasures prevail in the heaven worlds also. But they are more intense and subtle. This cannot give real and lasting happiness to a viveki. He shuns all enjoyments of the heaven world also. He kicks them away mercilessly. He is keenly aware of the pleasures of the three worlds and is convinced that they are only a mere drop in the ocean of Brahmic bliss.

Remember the sayings of the Gita

Meditation on the following slokas of the Bhagavad-Gita will induce true vairagya:

“When senses touch objects the pleasures therefrom are like wombs that bear sorrow. They begin, they are ended: they bring no delight to the wise” (5:22).

“Master of ego, standing apart from the things of the senses, free from self; aware of the weakness in mortal nature, its bondage to birth, age, suffering, dying” (13:8).

“Senses have joy in their marriage with things of the senses, sweet at first but at last how bitter: that pleasure is poison” (18:38).

“You find yourself in this transient, joyless world. Turn from it, and take your delight in Me” (9:33).

What Vairagya is

Vairagya is mental detachment from all connections with the world. That is all. Wherever a man may go, he carries with him his fickle, restless mind, his vasanas and samskaras. Even if he lives in solitude, still he is the same worldly man, if he is engaged in building castles in the air, and thinking of the objects of the world. In such case even the cave becomes a big city to him.

A dispassionate man has a different mind altogether. He has a different experience altogether. He is a past master in the art or science of separating himself from the impermanent, perishable objects of the world. He has absolutely no attraction for them. He constantly dwells on the Eternal or the Absolute. He identifies himself every moment of his life with the witnessing consciousness that is present in pleasure and in pain, in joy and in sorrow, in censure and in praise, in honor and in dishonor, in all states of life. He stands adamantine as a peak amid a turbulent storm, as a spectator of this wonderful world show. He is not a bit affected by these pleasant and painful experiences. He learns several valuable lessons from them. He has, in other words, no attraction for pleasant objects and repulsion for painful ones. Nor is he afraid of pain. He knows quite well that pain helps a lot in his spiritual progress and evolution, in his long journey towards the Goal. He stands convinced that pain is the best teacher in the world.

Let me sound a note of warning here. Dear aspirants! Vairagya also may come and go, if you are careless and mix promiscuously with all sorts of worldly-minded people. You should develop vairagya, therefore, to a maximum degree. The mind will be waiting for golden opportunities to get back the things once renounced. Whenever and wherever the mind hisses or raises its hood (for the mind is verily like a serpent), you should take refuge in viveka and in the imperishable fortress of wise, dispassionate mahatmas. There are different degrees in vairagya. Supreme dispassion comes when one gets himself established in Brahman. Now the vairagya becomes perfectly habitual.

A man can develop inner mental detachment from pleasure and pain while living in the world. He should see that he is not carried away by the pleasant experiences of the world. He should not cling to them. He should simply remain as a silent spectator. If he thus practices for some years, every experience will be a positive step in his ascent of the spiritual ladder. Eventually he will be crowned with sanguine success. He will then have an unruffled mind. He will have a poised mind also. A dispassionate man is the happiest and the richest man in all the three worlds. He is also the most powerful man. How can Maya tempt him now?

Best Training School

Doctors have a wide field for developing vairagya. Every day they come across patients with incurable diseases. Everyday they see dead bodies in the mortuary. Thus they have innumerable chances of seeing Maya in all her naked state. They can be convinced beyond a ray of doubt of the impermanence of life here in this world of man.

The superintendent of a jail and all the officers there also have wonderful chances of developing vairagya, if they are lovers of Truth and Emancipation. The sight of hanging a condemned prisoner will open their eyes.

Hey Saumya! Your mental state is laudable indeed. The life of a sannyasin is the best kind of life in the world. A true sannyasin is the monarch of the three worlds. Even an aspirant is an emperor of the whole world. Lord Krishna also says: “The man who has once asked the way to Brahman goes further than any mere fulfiller of rituals” (Bhagavad Gita 6:44).

I am extremely glad to note that you have got exceptionally good spiritual samskaras which want to burst out in this birth. They need protection and tender nurturing for your further growth and evolution. Do not be carried away by the temptations of the world. Be careful. Be wise. The beginner in the spiritual path should not remain in the company of worldly-minded people. He should resort to satsang. The company of worldly-minded people is a deadly poison. You will not become a prey to lust if you shun their company. Remain in seclusion under the direct guidance of a teacher who is fully established in Brahman till you get perfect vairagya and till you are established in the path of sannyasa.

A Note of Warning

Many aspirants come to me with great vairagya and enthusiasm in the beginning. But they do not keep up the same spirit for a long time or till the end of their sadhana. When they begin to encounter some difficulties, they retrace their steps. It is indeed a great pity. Look before you leap. Have a firm determination. Stick to the path of sannyasa till you reach the goal and realize the fruits of sadhana.

If you lack any of these qualifications, wait for a while. Meanwhile do spiritual sadhana, concentration and meditation at home. Plunge deep into silent meditation. Plunge yourself in selfless service also. This is very necessary for purification of mind. Keep up your brahmacharya. Destroy all evil habits, if you have any of these, such as smoking, tea, coffee, etc. Develop all virtuous qualities. Mark the change in your mental attitude. Then come prepared to lead a hard, active life.

Some aspirants come in a hurry. Due to lack of vairagya they go back. This is not good. Hence the warning.

Many aspirants want to do some nice work such as writing, collection of flowers for puja, arranging books in the library, some kind of supervision and management. They dislike works such as drawing of water, cleansing utensils, washing clothes of sick persons, sweeping, nursing, cooking, cleansing bedpans, etc. They consider these works as menial. They have not understood the real spirit of Nishkamya Karma Yoga. They are yet Babus [worldly men with worldly egos].

Dear Prabhu! There is a dull spiritual awakening in you and a dull type of vairagya. You will have to develop both. Dull vairagya and mere bubbling emotions will not help you much to stick to the path of renunciation. For some time leave the house and remain in a secluded place for a week or two. Enquire. Cogitate. Investigate. Do self-analysis and find out if you have any moha, attachment to your family members. Find out if your mind runs after sensual pleasures. Be sure whether you will be able to leave the sensual objects, relatives and all sorts of comforts and conveniences. If you can completely disconnect yourself from the world, then only come to an ashram. There are many who have advanced in the spiritual path considerably in course of one or two years. You can also do that. Implicit obedience and faithful carrying out of instructions of the spiritual preceptor to the very letter is what is expected of you; that is the secret of success in the spiritual path.

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Chapters for How to Get Vairagya

Preface: How to Get Vairagya